World broadband report shows 57pc of planet without internet

22 Sep 2015

A new worldwide broadband report released by the United Nations (UN) shows less than promising results for the majority of the world, with 57pc of people on the planet having no access to broadband.

The world broadband report produced by the UN Broadband Commission and entitled The State of Broadband is disheartening given that 90pc of the people living in the poorest nations are the ones with least access.

By the end of this year, however, the report predicts that we are to pass the 3.2bn mark for people connected to the internet, which represents an annual growth of 7.8pc, but overall growth is believed to be slowing as markets reach saturation.

Breaking it down between mobile and fixed-line broadband, once again the latter proves to be a signifier of where the greatest wealth divide is in the world with only 4m people living on the African continent having fixed-line access.

This is compared to Asia and the Pacific where there are 365m fixed-line connections, which equates to nearly half (46.6pc) of the world’s total.

Meanwhile, when it comes to access to mobile broadband, Africa has significantly more people connected in this way, with 162m on mobile or 5pc of the world’s total.

However, once again Asia and Pacific account for half of the total, amounting to 1.7bn people.

Other inequalities found in the report show that most of the internet does not offer access to a multi-lingual services with just 5pc of world’s languages (300) believed to be represented online.

Internet languags

Graph via UN

Even major national languages like Hindi and Swahili only account for 0.1pc each on the internet.

While developing countries are catching up in basic ICT penetration, this growing gap in the overall ‘internet of everything’ may point to big differences in how societies are utilising, and benefitting from, the internet, the report says.

“For example, network effects and externalities that multiply the impacts of ICTs require minimum adoption thresholds before those impacts can begin to materialise, and the greater the intensity of ICT use, the greater the impact on economic growth.”

World broadband statistics

Graph via UN

Looking at Ireland, in particular, we rank quite highly on the world stage in terms of access to broadband, ranking 35th in the number of fixed-broadband subscriptions at 26.9 per 100, and 24th in mobile subscriptions with 81 per 100.

In terms of overall number of people with access to internet, Ireland rank 30th with just under 80pc (79.7pc) compared with Iceland’s 98.2pc in first place.

Speaking of the report, director general of UNESCO, Irina Bokova, said: “The 2030 Agenda recognises the power of new technologies to accelerate human progress, to bridge the digital divide, to develop knowledge societies – we must do everything to support states in reaching these goals, especially developing states.”

Mother and child with mobile phone image via Shutterstock

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic